Wednesday, August 2, 2017

40th and Fabulous

One year ago, two of my friends from high school began discussing our 40th high school reunion.  The fact that I live farthest from Palo Alto, they really wanted my input on the date.  I always said that July is best because of the kids. The date of July 29, 2017 was decided upon. Committed to the date, no matter what.  Made hotel reservations at the location where the big event was, The Cabana Hotel, which is now a Crowne Plaza.  When I was a kid, it was the fanciest hotel around.  White, with fountains and statues leading to the front door, ala Caesar's in Vegas.  Beautiful and grand.  The only time I'd been there before was for our Tri-School Spring Formal.  My expectations and excitement would bubble up now and again waiting the long year until the event.

As the months got closer, my husband was kind enough to agree to fly with me.  (Whether or not he attended the weekend events remained to be seen).  Bought tickets for the dinner for both of us so we could hedge our bets, but as the time creeped closer, it all seemed good. He could come with me or not, come, meet, and leave. Anything.  Considering wardrobe is always challenging.  My favorite uniform is jeans and sneakers, but this occasion seemed to warrant a bit more thought.  I clearly was going to overpack so I could decide in the moments what to wear, but the day finally arrived.  We were both packed, woke up before dawn, took a car, and went to JFK for our flight.  Everything went easy.  The flight was on time. Luggage arrived. Got the rental car. Drove to my childhood fanciest hotel, only to be let down. It's a corporate hotel. Gone are the statues and fountains. Gone is the majestically painted white building. It's now a shade of earthtone brown. 

We arrived on a Thursday morning before noon and ended up roomless for hours. Went to breakfast, then drove around my old neighborhood. I wanted to see if Mark Zuckerberg (who bought my childhood home) had changed it or, worse, razed it.  Thankfully, it still's there. The entire neighborhood looked much the same, which warmed my heart.   Drove by friends old homes to see if there neighborhoods looked much the same and they did.  Our elementary school has long been gone with many houses replacing it, but that was no surprise.  Drove by the Community Center, the Main Library, the Palo Alto Children's Theatre, and parked at my high school, Palo Alto High to see the changes.  There are so many changes.  The Haymarket Theatre was open where all of my school shows and concerts occurred. It was wonderful to be able to share that piece of me with my husband.  It was open and we peaked around.  Then strolled around where the drama and music rooms were.  Saw the amazingly fancy and hi-tech Media Arts Center and Performing Arts Center from the outside.  WOW!  Don't understand how private money can go to one public school, but those kids should feel incredibly lucky.  So is true for the completely modernized and competitive athletic department and facilities.  WOW!  That night, met a dear friend of my sister's for dinner.  So fun and so yummy.  Off to try to sleep for night one.

Friday morning, made a plan to meet our closest P.A. friends at Peninsula Creamery.  Always good, never disappoints.  Caught up and chatted wildly about us, kids, the upcoming reunion events, theatre, travel, etc.  Holly and Billy adore spending time together.  We parted and Rich and I walked all around downtown to see the changes.  There are many.  Very many chain stores, but the architecture is much the same.  It still felt quaint and not the over the top wealthy that the area has become.  Still found comfort there.  The festivities began at 5:30pm for an impromptu gathering at a Mexican Restaurant called Vive del Sol.  There were at least 20 people there that I hadn't seen in years.  It was a perfect plan with people coming in and out.  The management was less than thrilled to have us paying customers staying on and on. They must've made money on our group, but their attitude sucked.  

Saturday arrived and the excitement really began to build.  I started seeing so many faces and friends in the lobby of the hotel.  Totally fun to see Pamela Gray, Kathy Gullixson, and Nancy Schreiner, all whom I've known since elementary school. I had brunch with Carolyn and Murdoch Perdue at Hobee's.  I had a midday afternoon with Karen Hughes at Mitchell Park.  So great to reconnect with her.  She is a very important part of my high school days. Mitchell Park blew my mind.  It used to be a sweet little park for kids and a little library and now it's a huge glorious activity center with a beautiful library.  The difference is incredible.  After that rendezvous, it was time to try to get gussied up.  I use that term loosely.  I took a shower, washed my hair, and got dressed.  It was still too early.  Always ready too early.  I was beginning not to feel my best.  Maybe a little dehydration, a little MS, a little hunger.  I wasn't going to let anything ruin this night.  It was time....I got there among the first, of course. I tried to shovel some food in before the people really began to float in.  The room was perfect.  Lots of light with an outside area for drinks and hor'doevres.  I can't believe all the people that started to come.  David Leslie, Adam Saunders, Xan Chamberlin, Pierre Tronik, Emily DuBois, Annabel Nunes, Mark Armstrong, Jim Donald, Eric Cretarolo, Natasha Kline, Debbie Sharpe, Carol Thuman, Laura Sprague, and more and more.  About a 1/3 of the class of 365 were in attendance.  

It was as if no time had passed.  How could it be 40 years since we all got our diplomas and went our separate ways?  We fell back into fun, laughs, and conversations. Even those that you weren't close to at the time felt like long lost friends. Hugs and dancing. Stories and catching up.  There were faces of joy and happiness everywhere.  Just to be there in the room was a high.  Now I know that not everyone loved their high school years and I'm sorry that you were unable to be with us.  I think we are a fantastic group of adults that still seem spirited and youthful in a room of our peers.  Sure there may be more grey hair, less hair, a few more pounds, a few less pounds, an inch or two shorter, but for one night again, we were 17/18 years old.  It was truly a magical night.  The hotel was cleaning up around us.  No one wanted to leave.  

We lost a few classmates along the way from illness, drugs, suicide, accidents, but for those of us that showed up, we remember the ones we lost.  We are a great group of 17/18 + 40 year olds.  I was proud of all of us but no more proud than all the work that Laurie Santos and Holly Liberatore put in to make the night so memorable. I look forward to your planning the 50th reunion.  You fine ladies worked like dogs and pulled off a night to remember.

Love to all the people that showed up.  Hope everyone makes it to our 50th healthy, wealthy, and more wise.